Cosmonauts Working to Outfit Rassvet Module

Flight Engineers Fyodor Yurchikhin and Mikhail Kornienko have exited the Pirs docking compartment, beginning the first Expedition 24 spacewalk at 12:11 a.m. EDT. The cosmonauts are in their Russian Orlan spacesuits to outfit the new Rassvet module for a Kurs automated rendezvous system capability for the automated docking of Russian vehicles arriving at the station to link up to Rassvet in the future.

A Russian spacewalker exits the Pirs docking compartment beginning the first Expedition 24 spacewalk. Credit: NASA TV

The six-hour spacewalk will also include routing and mating Command and Data Handling cables on the Zvezda and Zarya modules. A video camera will be removed and replaced from the aft end of Zvezda which will be used to provide television views of the final approach and docking of future European Automated Transfer Vehicles carrying cargo to the complex. This is the 25th Russian spacewalk and the 147th spacewalk overall in support of station assembly and maintenance.

This is Kornienko’s first spacewalk and Yurchikhin’s fourth. Yurchikhin’s first three spacewalks occurred when he was commander of Expedition 15 in 2007.

The second spacewalk of Expedition 24 is planned for August 5 by Flight Engineers Doug Wheelock and Tracy Caldwell Dyson in U.S. spacesuits out of the Quest airlock. They will install a power cable to the Unity module in preparation for the installation of the Permanent Multipurpose Module during the STS-133 mission in November. A Portable Data Grapple Fixture will be installed on the Zarya module that will extend the reach of Canadarm2, the station’s robotic arm, and increase a spacewalker’s access for assembly or maintenance work. They also will jettison multi-layer insulation removed for the grapple fixture installation and will mate power connectors to Zarya.

Caldwell Dyson will be making the first spacewalk of her career. Wheelock will be conducting his fourth. His first three spacewalks occurred as a mission specialist during STS-120 in late 2007.

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Twin car bomb kills 20 in Iraq

Twin car bombs killed 21 in Karbala, southern Iraq yesterday evening. The suicide attacks, on the road from Najaf, occurred at around 7:00 PM (16:00 UTC).

Car bomb in Iraq

At least 47 people were injured, according to Salid Kadhim, spokesman for Karbala’s health authorities, who went on to tell AFP, “Most of the killed and wounded are policemen and civilians.”

Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims are expected to travel to Karbala and nearby Najaf to celebrate the anniversary of the birthday of the Mahdi.

Seychelles sentences Somali pirates to ten years in prison

The Republic of Seychelles has convicted eight men of piracy and three others for aiding and abetting piracy. All eleven men each received a ten year sentence in jail. Four of the convicted were under eighteen years of age.

The office of President James Michel states this ruling is in response to a hijack attempt on a Seychelles coast guard ship.

This ruling by Seychelles’ Supreme Court in Victoria is the first time the state has convicted Somali pirates.

Seychelles

Seychelles set up a court for the sole purpose of trying Somali pirates earlier this year, in response to hijackings of ships in Seychellois waters.

A Seychellois government statement said that “[t]heir conviction is a historical milestone as it is the first time that a piracy trial is successfully prosecuted in the Seychelles.”

Pirates attacked ships more than 200 times in 2009, including 68 hijackings, and made around US$50 million (€38.5 million) in ransoms.

Seychelles and Kenya are the only African countries on the coast of the Indian Ocean with signed agreements with the European Union to prosecute Somali pirates.

Investigation into Washington D.C. Metro crash finds need for new safety rules

An investigation into the fatal 2009 Washington Metro train collision conducted by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) called for new safety and maintenance rules. The report, released today, blamed the crash on the faulty automatic train-control system. The report also cited the use of dated 1000-Series train cars. The 2009 crash, which killed 9 and injured 80, occurred during the evening rush between the Takoma and Fort Totten stations on the Red Line.

NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman, said that the system is currently regulated by state and local agencies. She called for Federal oversight. “Now it’s really time for them to step up to the plate and for Congress to address the issue,” Hersman said during the release of the findings.

NTSB photo of the 2009 accident Image: NTSB.

In 2009, Hersman told Congress that Federal safety guidelines should be set saying “the state oversight system is not effective, they don’t have any teeth.” Currently the Federal government has control of interstate transit systems, not regional or local transit systems.

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) said yesterday that it would replace all of it’s 1000-Series trains with newer models. After the crash, then WMATA general manager, John Catoe said that “the system is safe.” WMATA’s interim general manager Richard Sarles said that “We are committed to considering and following through on the findings and recommendations.”

Wikileaks release Afghan “war logs” in co-operation with mainstream media

Wikileaks has released a mass of “secret” material from the United States’ involvement in Afghanistan in the five years from 2004 to 2009.

The material was scrutinised in co-operation with the main stream newspapers The Guardian and The New York Times, and the German magazine Der Spiegel, who cross-referenced the leaked documents with published material to check the veracity of the material.

The material makes explicit the accusation that the Taliban is receiving support including man portable anti-aircraft missiles from Iran, and Pakistan. However, despite being condemned by the authorities in the United States, commentators have said that nothing in the released material would come as a surprise to anyone who has been following the war.

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